Tag Archives: social-emotional learning

This Is How We Do It by Matt LaMothe

There’s been a push in education (and in school libraries) to make connections with those outside of our building.  Tools like Skype and Google Hangouts make it easier to see and interact with children outside our school walls, but those connections are usually across the US.  Trying to get out of North America and learn about others in the world is harder, if for no other reason than the time differences. And that’s where books and librarians can come into play.

It takes a concerted effort to teach global understanding and build empathy for others.  Finding titles that encompassed multicultural backgrounds and deepened world understanding AND are engaging read-alouds is even harder.  Lucky for us, there’s a new book to make teaching global literacy a bit easier.

This is How We Do It: one day in the lives of seven kids from around the world by Matt LaMothe

Children take center stage as they explain what their daily lives are like in seven diverse countries around the world.  Because none of the countries featured are from North America (children from Japan, Russia, Uganda, Peru, India, Iran, and Italy are included), it stands to reason that this was created for children with background knowledge from that continent.  The big takeaway is that we have similarities regardless of where we are from: we play, we go to school, we eat meals, etc.  It’s the little details that make our countries, our cultures, distinctive: while many children walk to school, it is what they experience on that walk – from mosques to fruit stands to cafes – that is unique to their country and culture.  The crisp font and child-like illustrations lend themselves to sharing with a group, and the captions on each page, describing the child’s experience in each country, are brief yet informative.  A book with a timeless quality, this is highly recommended.  Share with ages 6-10.

For teachers developing and implementing social-emotional learning in their classrooms, This is How We Do It is a must-purchase. Oftentimes, a lack of cultural awareness or knowledge is what leads to exclusion and bullying in schools.  There are rich research opportunities within these pages, too. Paired alongside the CultureGrams database, students could research about lives of children not featured in this book and – potentially – create their own.

Were I still teaching in the Northwest, this would be the 4th book in a “Learners Around the World” unit (the other three are Rain School, Waiting for the Biblioburro, and I’m New Here).


This Is How We Do It publishes on May 2, 2017.

One of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

Social-Emotional Learning in the Library

This year, our school focus is Social-Emotional Learning. Yes. SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING.

During our Learning Instruction Days, our staff revamped our (outdated) school Tiger PRIDE focus (which, after 5+ years, I should know the meaning of…a telling sign).  As a group, we wrote and voted on our 4 school-wide expectations. Great care was taken to write the expectations (not rules) in child-friendly language. Any 5 or 11 year old should understand these words.  Notably missing is the word “respect” – a vague, all-encompassing word if there ever was one.

Be Kind.   Be Safe.    Do your best.    Help the rest.IMG_2536

Excited and hopeful don’t come close to expressing how I feel about this focus.  Having observed Montessori teachers the last 5 years and read numerous books on embracing the whole child, I know that successful classrooms must build social-emotional behavior, learning and lessons whenever needed, not just when convenient.  We can teach it anytime, but it’s taking the time to drop everything and focus on tough SEL issues when they crop up that is challenging.

So… how do these expectations and Social-Emotional Learning look in the library?

First, there is this quote:


To me, Ginott captures the heart of social-emotional learning. I know that SEL starts with me. Modeling positive behaviors is a must. Showing students – and telling them with grace and courage – that I’m doing my best during tough situations let’s them know that it’s not always easy for me, either. Acknowledging student for helping the rest – classmates, me, the library as a whole – is also important. And staying safe by walking, pushing in chairs, and quietly removing yourself when there is a seating dispute are discussed and encouraged. I speak using overwhelmingly positive, peaceful words. I aim to be predictable in my temperament and actions. Empowering children to love the library is my goal, and they won’t do that if I’m yelling/moody/unpredictable.

There is a large poster in the story pit with our four school (and life) expectations. We review these words every week before class, and I write them on the whiteboard.  I highlight any that may be particularly useful during the lesson (help the rest – if we’re using a new tech, etc.) Total time: 30-60 seconds.

Some examples of how the expectations were modeled in the first two weeks:

  • Be kind: A K student was surreptitiously pulling the hair of another. The girl turned around, yelled at the hair-puller, then folded inward and cried. I stopped the story, got down on their level, and spoke to both in a peaceful voice. I said that hair-pulling is not okay, neither at school or in life, choosing not to acknowledge the guilty party yet.  I asked the hair-got-pulled girl if the other student apologized. She wouldn’t look at me, so I asked again, requesting that she look at my eyes. She did look and answered, “no”. To the whole class, I said, “Pulling hair is not okay. It is not kind, and we are kind at school” using a quiet voice. At this point, the hair-puller acknowledged herself and said it was an accident.  About a minute had past and the rest of the class was silent. Now, apologies. I asked the class how you know if something is an accident.  Someone says, “you have to say sorry”.  I agreed, reiterating for the group that if you don’t say “sorry” – while making eye contact and using a kind voice – the other person think you were trying to hurt them.  Apologies were made and accepted, tears dried, and the lesson moved on.  Total time: around 3 minutes.
  • Be safe: Students sit on stairs to listen to stories. Sometimes, feet and bodies are too close. Students are aware that, to be safe, they are able to move to a better learning space at any point during our lesson. This idea of being a problem-solver is reiterated for the first month of school. I do notice trouble, but I won’t stop the lesson if I feel a child can solve the problem independently by making safe choices that work for them. During the first 2 weeks, a half-dozen students moved during lessons – most quietly, without disruption – to stay safe.
  • Do your best: I ask students to leave the library looking as good or better than they found it. In this way, each child can do their best. It took a class 5 extra minutes to leave, as they would not push in chairs and return pencils to the basket. My statement to them: “You are not doing your best for our library and for the next class by leaving materials around the room and chairs scattered.” Then…
  • Help the rest: Library class always ends with the statement to leave the room looking as good as, if not better than, you found it.  “If you notice a problem, step in and help the rest.” It’s interesting to watch which students will volunteer to help others and the library space as a whole. Often, it’s the children I least expect.


Our school received fantastic signage created by our colleague’s daughter, author/illustrator Lara Kaminoff. And though this poster will be hung throughout the building, I hold hope that it’s lessons will be embraced and encouraged, taught and retaught by both students, staff, and families.  May these SEL lessons in life stay with us this year and for years to come.

Library Lessons: Sep 1-4, 2015

Whoo-hoo! Week 1 of 2016-2016!

Kindergarten: All my best hints for teaching the K’s are here. During week 1, we: play Library iSpy, talk with my friend Tiger, get to know names using the squishy ball, follow the leader using tiger paw hands, learn where/how to sit down, read a story. Notice there is no check out…that’s next week.

2nd grade:  The sequel to last year’s WCCPBA winner! We read The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, connected the story to our school social-emotional learning goals, and checked out ONE book. With no volunteers and large classes, having a slow start for checkout (1 item 1st week, 2 items 2nd week, etc) makes for a smoother, less harried start.

4th grade: Another story with crayons, but geared for the upper readers. Red by Michael Hall seems written for the SEL curriculum. Students were acutely aware of characters trying their best but still failing, for a red-wrapped crayon can’t color red if he’s blue underneath.  Lots of discussion was also generated around helping others (or Help the Rest, as we say).  Help looks many different ways, and sometimes the most well-intentioned help is really hurtful.